Sunday, 1 November 2009

Was That All There Was?

On Saturday I went to the BHA conference of Humanist Philosophers with the title "Evolutionary Theory: Is This All There is?". The most interesting speaker to my way of thinking was Susan Blackmore who expounded the theory of Memes in an enthusiastic manner. She was however challenged by Simon Blackburn who wondered whether the theory was really scientific and could be "falsified" as the philosopher Popper requires.

The second part of the conference, on Value and Virtue I found unhelpful since the speakers seemed to be bound to the idea of there being absolute standards of "the Good", whereas I've long taken a more relativist view, that it depends who or what it is Good for. There was much mention of Altruism, and I wanted to ask why there seemed to be a general assumption that Altruism is a Good thing. Aren't suicide bombers Altruists, since they are giving up their lives to a cause?

The last session was on Evolutionary Psychology and the meaning of life. Regrettably I don't seem to have much recollection of what was said, probably because it didn't amount to very much. Richard Norman said some things that I'm sure were very sensible but not at all exciting. I see that there is a programme on BBC Radio 4 on Monday at 9pm on Evolutionary Psychology, fronted by Steve Jones, with the title "Aping Evolution" which may be more stimulating.

In the final debate, in which all the seven contributors were on the platform, Susan Blackmore was again the most memorable.

Among the audience I met three of our Supporters, who have attended our past meetings, though they hadn't travelled up from Hastings. The subject of the conference clearly overlaps with that of our own November meeting.

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